1 of 2
Photo by Dani Wilson
United Methodist Village residents are pictured with one of Eric Oettle’s benches.
2 of 2
Photo by Dani Wilson
One of the two benches Oettle made for the garden.
An Alton man has brought his creativity and craft to the rest of the community by building benches and selling them — or, most recently, donating them.
Two of Eric Oettle’s most recent works can be seen in the United Methodist Village community garden.
Oettle says he has been interested in woodworking for most of his life. In eighth grade, he made a guitar clock out of wood. Throughout high school, he took woodworking and construction classes. Since then, he has helped build and remodel houses, build decks and fences, and even a few picnic tables.
His family agrees, chiming in that he has fixed cars and other household appliances.
“He knows how to draw, too,” says his daughter.
Oettle’s handiwork also spreads to helping his mother build and decorate cakes. He has built wedding cakes as well as decorated birthday and graduation cakes for friends and family.
“I just love doing hands-on work,” Oettle says.
Just under a year ago, he saw a picture of a wooden bench on the Internet.
“I thought I might be able to build one of these things,” he said.
He followed the picture and used a leftover wood pallet from a friend, and in no time had officially created his first bench. From there, he decided to make variations on bench and chair designs, even putting a table in the middle of one of his benches. He began putting them in his front yard, and had people call with inquiries to buy one.
“They seemed to like it,” he says.
When Home Depot, where Oettle works, began work on the community garden at the United Methodist Village, the carpenter says he wanted to contribute, as he knew a few of the residents.
“There was nowhere for the residents to sit,” he said.
He took extra care to use smaller designs, making the benches lighter so they can be easily moved if desired.
Making benches is still a priority for Oettle. That is, when he is not juggling working two jobs, spending time with his family, and coaching Alton Renegades football. He works most during the summer, he says, so he plans to be building benches again all through the winter. He says he would like to make more benches before next summer and hopefully take part in local markets and merchandise booths.
He would like to eventually turn his artwork into a small business. For now, Oettle brings in business with a sign in his front yard, propped up by an example of his craft. He tries to make business as personalized as possible, even trying to deliver his benches to customers for that face-to-face connection.
Oettle is taking orders for benches at (618) 917-5679.